On the surface, Creep looks like yet another found footage movie and the kind that Blumhouse Productions keeps churning out month after month. But once you watch it, you’ll discover something different and far more unnerving about it.
The film follows Aaron (Patrick Brice, who also co-wrote and directed), a videographer who accepts an offer from a man named Josef (Mark Duplass) on Craigslist. After they meet, Josef explains that he has terminal cancer and that he wants to record a diary for his unborn son to let him know the kind of person he is a la Michael Keaton in My Life. But as Aaron’s keeps filming Josef, he comes to find that Josef is not at all who he appears to be. In fact, he proves to be far more unhinged than Aaron could ever imagine.
During a recent press day held for Creep in Los Angeles, I had the chance to speak with both Brice and Duplass. Over the course of our interview, they spoke about how Creep differs from the average found footage movie, how the idea for it came about and why the unusual distribution platform for the film makes sense.
Check it out below, and enjoy!
How did you first develop this movie?
Patrick Brice: Well, I think it came out of these conversations that Mark and I were having. I had just graduated from school, I went to Cal Arts, and initially I was making documentaries and weird art films. Mark was sort of shepherding me out into the world coming out of school, and that was where the initial genesis of this idea came from. It was essentially us just wanting to make something together.
Mark had this initial idea of making a movie completely on his own and it didn’t happen, so we took it and turned it into the idea for “Peachfuzz.” It was called “Peachfuzz” at the time and we went out and shot “Peachfuzz” over the course of five days up in the cabin. I think like 50% of that is still in the movie. We were thinking this was going to be much more of a relationship movie, kind of a dark comedy.
Mark Duplass: Yeah, we thought like a really awkward, uncomfortable My Dinner with Andre (laughs). That was kind of like the model, and then it went somewhere else. Patrick had also made this documentary short called Maurice about the owner of one of the last pornography theaters in Paris, and I noticed the way he was and what he got from this guy. So there was a trust, and it’s the nature of how Patrick is. He just loves people and he doesn’t judge them.
And I saw that element and I was like, what if we take that element in you and created a more extreme character, someone who is just desperate for love and will really stick around and trust people too much, and then put him against my character. There is a seed of me in Josef which I call the president of the student council mentality, which is those guys who go into a room and change their personalities just a little bit to get done what they need to do. I have that in me, I got it from my dad, and I thought what if we just amplified that shit to a predatory level and put these two guys together.
Like a really good horror movie, Creep unveils its story and characters as it goes along. Nothing is as it appears at first. Was it hard keeping certain things from the audience as the movie went on?
Mark Duplass: Well, it’s interesting because, not to take everything from us, but this film was such an arts and crafts process of discovery. It was different from any film we’ve ever made in that the question you ask almost presumes that we knew what the movie was from start to finish and we were controlling it all the way.
There was just so much discovery going on that we were figuring out what it was as we went along, and at the end, Chris Tomlin our editor and our Blumhouse production partners were culling little pieces of information, deciding is this better to play with silence or do we keep audiences in the dark? Should we add a little tone to let them know the scares are coming? That level of control crept in towards the end, but 80% of the process of this movie was us shooting things, going with our instincts, showing them to our filmmaker friends in assemblies and rough cuts saying, how is this making you feel? Is this working? So it was really collaborative.
It was almost like the process of writing the script was our actual shooting of the movie. We were just trying things out, and because it was in the handheld, found footage form, it was cheaper to shoot. So we just shot first and looked later.
Patrick Brice: And there ends up being an interesting duality between the more off-the-cuff stuff that would just kind of happened as a result of chance, and then these moments that are purely constructed in kind of an old school horror movie way.
The “Peachfuzz” mask, was that designed for the movie or was it something you found?
Mark Duplass: We came up with it. We found it digging deep through every possible venue you can imagine looking for masks. It underwent a couple of modifications, but when we found him we kind of knew immediately that it defined the movie very well. You see that in the right light it’s very goofy and it’s very funny and there’s a sweetness to it, and then all of a sudden you turn it at an angle and you turn off one lamp and it turns terrifying. That’s kind of the essence of the film.
The found footage genre has been beaten to death. Were there any clichés of the genre that you were looking to avoid?
Mark Duplass: All of them. We were terrified of them. The only thing we liked about it is that it is cheap and easy to make.
Patrick Brice: Also, between the two of us, we had only seen The Blair Witch Project at that point, so it helped that we didn’t know what we were doing when it came to that. We didn’t know what clichés existed already. That was one of the areas where Jason Blum and the whole team here (at Blumhouse Productions) were really able to help us out with flushing out those moments.
Mark Duplass: It’s almost like the movie is more of a video diary than a found footage film.
Patrick Brice: Yeah. Greg Plotkin – he just directed Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension and he was the editor on all the Paranormal Activity movies – we showed the movie to him and he really loved it and was helping us out. He was quick to call it a POV film. He said, “We don’t call them found footage films.”
Mark Duplass: But I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with the form.
Patrick Brice: There’s more to be done.
Mark Duplass: Yeah, and ours is just an extremely personal version of it that’s about faces and emotions and dynamics and strange behavior. That was something we could bring to it because we are not horror filmmakers. We are dramedy filmmakers and comedy filmmakers, and so we were able to bring more of a relationship angle to it than we have previously seen.
Patrick Brice: I also think that Creep requires more of an audience than a normal found footage movie does in that you are stuck with these two people for the entire movie. You are kind of beholden to them and where they are gonna go, and I feel like it’s a movie that if you give into it, if you give in to everything that’s happening, then you’re going to have a great ride.